One of Alabama’s most recognized sideline personalities appears to be heading to another SEC program. Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, a man whose identity has become as well known as any strength coach can possibly be over the last few years, is reportedly heading to Georgia to take on a brand new role.
Scott Cochran, the longtime strength and conditioning coach for @AlabamaFTBL is expected — barring a last-minute change — to leave UA for an on-field coaching position at Georgia per sources. More to come at @tidesports
There have been many reasons for Alabama’s overall success with Nick Saban as the head coach. Having Cochran on his staff has certainly been one of the key reasons because he has been recognized as one of the nation’s top strength and conditioning coach (he’s won the award for top strength coach twice). And it may not be much of a coincidence that Cochran has been one of the only assistants on the staff for each of Saban’s national championship seasons between Alabama and LSU. His voice and energy seen on the field in warmups and on the sidelines has become a draw for television cameras in more recent years and he has been one of the leaders in the movement to recognize more strength and conditioning coaches during gamedays.
It should come as little surprise Cochran would be an attractive option for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, a former Alabama defensive coordinator who worked alongside Cochran in Tuscaloosa. What role Cochran will be taking on remains to be confirmed, however, as reports say he will not be Georgia’s strength and conditioning coach. That role is currently held by Scott Sinclair in Athens.
No matter what role Cochran takes at Georgia, and how that ultimately pans out for the Bulldogs, this is a notable loss for Saban and Alabama. Granted, Alabama should be able to find a more-than-qualified strength and conditioning coach to take over the very lucrative (and high-paying) job, so it’s not like this will turn Alabama football into a doormat (much to the dismay of Alabama haters around the SEC and beyond).
UPDATE (6:38 p.m. ET): Alabama head coach Nick Saban has issued a statement regarding the departure of his longtime strength coach:
For the second time in three years, the Georgia Bulldogs have signed the nation’s top-rated recruiting class. With the second National Signing Day drawing to a close, the recruiting rankings have been compiled and the composite rankings from 247 Sports have determined Georgia will close out the Class of 2020 with the nation’s No. 1 class.
To claim the top spot, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart once again had to edge his former boss, Alabama head coach Nick Saban. After returning to the top spot in the recruiting wars last season, Saban and Alabama pulled in the nation’s No. 2 class, just edging out Dabo Swinney and Clemson.
#UGA's last four recruiting class rankings: No. 1; No. 2, No. 1 and No. 3. In those four classes, they've landed 19 five-star recruits. Wow. (via 247Sports.)
Consider Georgia now charged with the responsibility of delivering on some lofty expectations. Such high expectations are nothing new for Georgia, of course. Smart has already delivered an SEC title and a run to the national championship game in his time as Georgia’s head coach, but the bar continues to be in need of being cleared. With four straight recruiting classes ranked in the top four of the nation and two top-rated classes in the last three seasons, Georgia looks to have the roster it needs to win a seemingly elusive national title. Even from a conference with Alabama and the new defending national champions (LSU, who signed the No. 4 overall class), the time is now for Georgia to put up or shut-up.
This is Smart’s program from top to bottom now. Now let’s see if it is good enough to win it all.
Another Strong Year for the SEC
The SEC has made it routine to see the majority of its conference landing in the top 25 of the annual recruiting rankings. This year was no different. In addition to Georgia, Alabama and LSU landing in the top four, the SEC had four more teams rank in the top 10. Texas A&M (No. 6), Auburn (No. 7), Florida (No. 8), and Tennessee (No. 10) each brought in a ton of talent and potential in their latest recruiting classes. Only Clemson, Ohio State (No. 5), and Texas (No. 9) managed to crack the top 10 from outside of the SEC.
South Carolina (No. 18) and Kentucky (No. 24) also waved the SEC flag inside the top 25. That gives the SEC 9 teams in the top 25 of the national recruiting rankings. Mississippi State (No. 27), Arkansas (No. 30), Ole Miss (No. 39), and Missouri (No. 50) also cracked the top 50. Vanderbilt is the only SEC member without a top 50 recruiting class, but the Commodores come in at No. 57 as of the time of this post being written.
Top 50 By Conference
Big Ten: 11
Big 12: 7
As for teams in the top 25, the Big Ten is well-represented. And it’s the usual names you will find form the conference in the top 25. Aside from the Buckeyes, Michigan and Penn State are back-to-back at No. 14 and No. 15, respectively. Nebraska, who always seems to fare well in recruiting rankings no matter the year, comes in at No. 20. Wisconsin (No. 25) rounds out the top 25 recruiting rankings.
Best Recruiting Classes in Each Conference
When it comes to what schools are leading the way in recruiting within their own conferences, there are some familiar leaders of the pack here. Ohio State continues to be the champions of the Big Ten in recruiting, and the results on the field have backed that up. Clemson has been the dominant force in the ACC for a number of years now, with nobody really closing in just yet. Texas is taking the crown in the Big 12 this year, and defending Pac-12 champion Oregon is sitting on top of the Pac-12 recruiting rankings just as they did last year (it’s another rough year for USC on the recruiting trail, with the No. 10 class…… in the Pac-12).
AAC – Cincinnati (No. 40)
ACC – Clemson (No. 3)
Big 12 – Texas (No. 9)
Big Ten – Ohio State (No. 5)
Conference USA – FIU (No. 71)
MAC – Toledo (No. 68)
Mountain West – Boise State (No. 65)
Pac-12 – Oregon (No. 12)
SEC – Georgia (No. 1)
Sun Belt – Louisiana (No. 79)
A few notable differences from last year’s Class of 2019 rankings include Cincinnati taking the top spot in the AAC this year. The Bearcats dethrone UCF for the top recruiting class in the conference and are easily ahead of the rest of the Group of 5 programs. The next Group of 5 team in the recruiting rankings is Boise State (No. 65), but the Broncos are ranked 16 spots lower than where they sat a year ago. In Conference USA, the departure of Lane Kiffin (from FAU to Ole Miss) may have been what was needed for FIU to slip ahead of FAU.
It is worth noting that recruiting rankings are subject to change. All rankings are according to the latest 247 Sports composite rankings at the time of this posting.
The No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 SEC) started their SEC and season opener at Vanderbilt with touchdowns on each of their first three offensive possessions and the defense took care of things from there. Georgia handled Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1 SEC) from start to finish and left Nashville with a 30-6 victory to start the season.
Georgia scored touchdowns on drives of 75, 89, and 80 yards to start the game but the offense went quiet for most of the remainder of the night. A couple of field goals by Rodrigo Blankenship helped pad the lead and a late Vanderbilt turnover, but there were not a ton of offensive highlights for the Georgia offense to speak of. D’Andre Swift did lead the ground attack with 147 yards as the Bulldogs took advantage of their strength on the ground. As a team, Georgia rolled up over 300 yards of rushing offense, which led Jake Fromm to not have to turn in a big night throwing the football. It was a game that Georgia was fine just dominating on the ground, even if it didn’t lead to much damage on the scoreboard.
Georgia’s victory in the SEC East game came on the same day much of the division had some trouble in Week 1. A week after Florida won an ugly game against Miami in Week 0, Kentucky took a while to take care of Toledo at home, South Carolina lost to North Carolina in Charlotte, and Tennessee was dumped at home by Georgia State. Missouri was in some serious trouble at Wyoming in the same time slot. A couple others in the SEC had some struggles as well. Arkansas had a seven-point win over FCS Portland State at home. Mississippi State had a closer game on the road against Louisiana than expected. Ole Miss lost at Memphis and Auburn was struggling in primetime against Oregon as the Bulldogs were taking care of Vanderbilt. Alabama may have taken a while to get rolling but took care of Duke in Atlanta, and LSU had no concerns against Georgia Southern. All in all, Georgia clearly looked like the best team in the SEC East, and the gap may not have closed much since last season if we are to judge on one week of games.
Regardless of that outlook in the division, Kirby Smart will have plenty of issues to take into practices next week while preparing for Week 2. Georgia was flagged for too many penalties (but Vanderbilt was called for even more), and the offense went into a bit of a lull after their first three possessions went for touchdowns on drives covering at least 75 yards. Third-down conversions were almost impossible to find (1-of-7), which should be another concern to address. There should be credit given to Vanderbilt’s defense for not allowing Georgia’s offense to run away with things on their home field, but it should be at least a sticking point that Smart addresses with the team in the coming days once they begin reviewing the film from this game. And to be clear, Georgia was hardly ever in a stressful situation where the game could have been lost.
The Georgia defense, however, will earn high marks for their season debut. Vanderbilt was unable to be effective on third down for much of the night and scratching together yards was incredibly difficult from start to finish. Georgia has a defense that will be tough for teams to find much room to work this season, and that bodes well for the Bulldogs. It is not often the Georgia offense will be limited as much as they were against Vandy, and expect Smart to clean up a few things moving forward.
Look for the Georgia offense to have some more big numbers in the next couple of games. Georgia is home next week against an FCS opponent, Murray State, and then they host Arkansas State in Week 3. That allows plenty of time to iron out some wrinkles and clean things up a bit as Georgia is set to host Notre Dame in primetime on Sept. 21 before jumping into SEC play for the rest of the season (not counting the Georgia Tech game).
As for Vanderbilt, the defense proved they can hang in there. After giving up long touchdown drives their first three times out, the Commodores were not easy to move on the rest of the night. They’ll look to continue that defensive effort and improve the offensive output next week with a road game in Big Ten territory against Purdue. Both teams will be looking for their first win of the season. Purdue lost their season opener on Thursday night against Nevada.
One of Georgia’s top wide receivers from 2018 with a bright upside for the upcoming season is no longer a part of the program. Jeremiah Holloman has been removed from the program shortly after allegations of assault form a 2018 incident have led to an investigation that is currently ongoing.
“Jeremiah Holloman no longer represents the University of Georgia football program,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said in a statement, as reported by The Covington News. “We expect every member of our team to uphold the highest standards and values of the University of Georgia and Georgia football. It is disappointing when this does not happen.”
The incident in question reportedly was after Georgia’s spring game in 2018, with an alleged victim claiming she was choked by Holloman during an argument. As the police report indicates, Holloman was restrained by his brother, but Holloman allegedly punched the alleged victim in the face. The alleged victim received stitches for her wounds but did not initially reveal the true cause of the injury. Holloman reportedly told police the alleged victim sent him threatening messages suggesting someone would get him.
Holloman played in all 14 games for Georgia last season, accumulating 418 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He caught two touchdowns in Georgia’s 36-17 victory over Florida as the highlight of his 2018 season, although he also caught three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in a nice road win at Missouri prior to that.
It’s been a long time since the Georgia Bulldogs have won a national championship, but Kirby Smart has the program on a level where one can be expected any year now in Athens. Georgia’s biggest problems over the years may have been having really good teams that were blocked by some truly great teams standing in the way. The closest Georgia has come tow inning a national championship since their last title in 1980 was two seasons ago when the Bulldogs were unable to hold on to a fourth-quarter lead and lost in overtime to SEC foe Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game.
Vince Dooley had been coaching the Bulldogs since 1964, and Georgia certainly had some great seasons to that point under his leadership. But things finally fell into place for Georgia in 1980 when Georgia opened the season ranked No. 16 in the AP poll and turned in the first undefeated season for the program since 1946. One of the reasons for Georgia’s success was the play of freshman running back Herschel Walker, who took no time at all to introduce himself to the college football world with authority. In the season opener against Tennessee, Walker powered his way through Bill Bates in an iconic moment.
Georgia’s undefeated run included victories over No. 14 South Carolina and No. 20 Florida, back-to-back shutouts of Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and a regular season finale victory over rival Georgia Tech to setup a showdown with No. 7 Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. No. 2 Florida State was going to play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, while No. 3 Pitt lined up against No. 18 South Carolina in the Gator Bowl. No. 5 Michigan was sent to the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten champion. All the top-ranked Bulldogs had to do was beta the Irish and the polls would fall in their favor, although the Sooners clipping the Seminoles by a point certainly helped cement the case for the national title.
Here’s a snapshot of what was going on in 1980 when Georgia ruled the college football landscape.
Last National Title Season: 1980 (39 years and counting)
Who was President?
Although Jimmy Carter was in office when Georgia was running through their schedule, the Democratic incumbent was defeated by Ronald Reagan in a landslide of epic proportions in November. It would be Reagan who welcomed the Bulldogs to the White Hosue to be honored as national champions.
In 1980, current President Donald J. Trump identified as a Democrat and was married to his first wife, Ivana Zelníčková.
What was on TV?
It was the end of an era on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” with the final episodes for the Not Ready for Primetime Players, but that would lead to the introduction of Eddie Murphy in the new cast later in the year. David Letterman also made his debut as host of “The David Letterman Show,” a morning show that did not pan out very well. Surely this would be the end of Letterman’s television career…
One of the biggest questions in television history was asked following the season finale of “Dallas” aired leaving many to wonder who shot J.R.
Respected news anchor Walter Cronkite also announced his retirement. 1980 also saw the launch of cable networks CNN, Cinemax, and BET. Also on cable networks, a network called ESPN aired the NFL Draft for the first time in television history.
What movies were hot?
One of the biggest reveals in cinematic history occurred in 1980 when James Earl Jones delivered one of his most iconic lines to a young Mark Hamil. Yes, Darth Vader was, in fact, Luke’s father, as we all learned in The Empire Strikes Back. Not surprisingly, the sequel to the original Star Wars led the way at the box office in 1980. Hopefully, it wasn’t spoiled for some of you standing in line to see the movie for yourself for the first time.
If thrillers were your thing, then The Shining had you covered with Jack Nicholson in one of his most famous roles to date. Other popular movies in 1980 included 9 to 5, Stir Crazy, and Airplane!. A sequel to Smokey and the Bandit was released to less fanfare, and The Blues Brothers became a cult favorite for some.
Hollywood paid their respects to the passing of Alfred Hitchcock, who passed away in April. Robert De Niro took home the Oscar for Best actor for his role in Raging Bull.
Who was on the cover of NCAA Football?
Nobody, of course. Not only didn’t the video game franchise exist at the time, but the company that developed the game (Electronic Arts) wasn’t founded for another two years. The polygons needed for a quality video game were still not available anyway. At the time, Pac-Man was just becoming a national icon following his first arcade game in May, while other games taking over the arcade scene included Missile Command and the Atari 2600 and Intellivision were making its way into homes before the video game market would crash in a few short years.
What else happened in 1980?
“Do you believe in miracles?” Al Michaels, who currently calls the action for Sunday Night Football on NBC, delivered his signature call as the United States men’s hockey team was seconds away from upsetting the Soviet Union’s hockey team in the Olympics.
The Philadelphia Phillies won their first World Series title by topping the Kansas City Royals in six games. The Phillies had taken out the Houston Astros in one of the best NLCS to this day. It wasn’t all great for the Philadelphia sports scene in 1980, however. The 76ers were taken out by the Los Angeles Lakers as rookie point guard Magic Johnson took over the series in place of an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The New York Islanders also defeated the Flyers with an overtime goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Eagles would go on to lose to John Madden and his Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl at the end of the 1980 season.
Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
Conference champions in college football included UNC (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 8), Michigan (Big Ten), Washington (Pac-10), Baylor (Southwest Conference), and BYU (WAC). George Rogers of South Carolina won the Heisman Trophy. BYU’s Jim McMahon led the nation in pass completions and passing yards and touchdowns. USC’s Marcus Allen led the nation in rushing attempts.
Current Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was five years old. Nick Saban was in his first year as a defensive backs coach for Ohio State.
Will this be the year for Georgia?
Smart has certainly invigorated the Bulldogs to thinking like a national championship contender once again. While Georgia had been one of the more consistently good programs for years under Mark Richt, they just could not get over the hump and a string of better national title contenders just happened to be playing at the same time during the BCS glory days of the SEC and into the College Football Playoff. But Smart has raised the bar for Georgia, and it would not be shocking to see Georgia making consistent pushes for playoff consideration and getting a shot at a long-awaited national title very soon.